• Jennifer Hastings

What's for Dinner?

“What’s for dinner?” Stew throws the million-dollar question out there like he does every afternoon on his way home from work.

What he means is, what do you want me to cook? You see, he is the cook in our family. I still remember when the apron changed hands, it was early on in our marriage. I was desperately trying to play the part of the homemaker. One time, I made broccoli and cheese soup, baked potatoes, and salad. Stew came home and kept looking around the stove, he even opened the oven, looking for meat. It turns out a meal is not a meal without a slab of meat. Who knew? I love veggie nights! Using recipe cards, Stewart’s mother had given me, I made his Aunt Julie’s chicken enchiladas for dinner one night. Over casual chitchat, he says, “We have had this a lot lately.”

This conversation occurred before kids lived at our dinner table, so I had a few minutes to chew on that comment. We have had this a lot lately. What does that even mean? It was at least two weeks ago. I looked at him and replied with, “So, do you want to cook from now on?”

He didn’t even hesitate for a second, “Yes.”

Imagine a split-screen inside my head; half of me was dancing as if I just won the lottery singing no more cooking for me while the other half of me hangs her head in defeat, feeling like the worst chef in America.

After I licked my wounds and my pride healed, I realized he had a gift for cooking. Maybe it wasn't about my cooking as much as it was about him wanting to try his hand at it.

Looking back now, I have had the privilege of seeing his talents grow as a chef. For Stewart, cooking is a creative outlet. He stands over the stove and tastes a bite here and a bit there, picking spices and adjusting to taste as he goes, much like a painter takes a step back to look at the overall painting and picks just the right color to enhance their picture, he just knows what to add and it melts in your mouth!

I’ve noticed how over the years, he comes alive when we try a new dish; we call it food project time. I come up with new projects for him to test out, and I hang around in the kitchen, pulling items out of the fridge and trying to stay on top of the mess he makes. While I’m not a cook and don’t particularly love spending so much time in the kitchen, I’ve found this kitchen time to be an investment in our relationship.

In a past post on marriage, I wrote about guys needing shoulder-to-shoulder time, time spent on a task together. More times than not, Stew is most apt to share his thoughts with me while standing over the stove or chopping veggies. Time in the kitchen has become our time to reconnect after a day at work. Think about your man, is there a hobby or passion he has that you can join him in or at least encourage?

Part of making your marriage a priority is learning to love and appreciate the talents of your person. Maybe he likes woodworking; try handing him a hammer and see if the words start flowing in rhythm with the nails. Perhaps he is a gamer, now I’m not saying I would encourage this habit, but maybe sitting down and watching him play one every once in a while, would go a long way in his book. Let him tell you about his game and see where the conversation goes.

The Great Food Challenge of 2020

This year, I am giving Stew one special food mission each month. During Christmas vacation, while visiting Stewart’s parents, I poured over cookbooks and made a plan. Stew’s parents are foodies too, so they have joined us in The Great Food Challenge of 2020.

Some dishes are not new, but the point is to anticipate a new experience. It is exciting to look forward to cooking something outside of the regular dinner queue. Next Christmas, we will sit down with Stewart’s parents and have a food project review. Which dish was the hardest to make, which was the overall favorite, and did any make it into the regular dinner lineup?

January’s dish was Shepard’s pie. It was a massive hit with my kiddos too! It was fun to see how excited they were just because we made a big deal about having a taste test and giving your opinion. Caroline gave her review in a British accent, which cracked everyone up.

Stewart didn’t follow an exact recipe. He tends to read several and then adapts to his favorite ingredients and cooks to taste. Next time, I will record his method as he cooks it because I want him to make this one again.

Lovie and Pop followed this recipe and loved their Shepard's pie as well.

Cooking might not be what gets your family going, but maybe trying a new restaurant once a month, cooking a new dessert, or riding bikes on a new trail sound exciting to you. A husband and wife that play together, stay together, at least that is the way I see it! Brainstorm some ways you can bring some fun and excitement to your family this year. They do say variety is the spice of life.

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